It continually occurs to me as I rattle around my new Portland flat, trying to figure out the best place to store old and familiar things, how mind-bending a move can be. It’s like going through an intense year-long therapy session that ends up getting compressed into a few stressful weeks.
Not only are our materials things, our “stuff,” relocated and re-placed in a different and foreign configuration, kicking up tons of unseen dust bunnies, surprises and confusion, but in the process, if we pay attention, it also stirs up wisps of memories, bits and pieces of nostalgia, even fragments of forgotten dreams as well as traumas from painful, even shameful moments, summoning insights into buried incidents or experiences long-forgotten.
That is, IF we’re willing and able to pay attention as it’s happening. IF we’re in our bodies securely enough to allow the truths to be heard.
Familiarity. Comfort. The known. The controllable. The predictable. All of that gets thrown up in the air when we relocate our bodies, minds and souls.
It makes perfect sense, really. Living in the same place for years at a time, we get comfortable. Everything has its place, routines are set, friends’ and neighbors’ foibles have been long-revealed; there are few surprises. And most of us like it that way.
But along with the seemingly smooth surfaces of a known existence, there is also a tendency as well as opportunity to avoid any disjointed or inconvenient truths that pop up and threaten to disrupt our cultivated, in-control lives. Most of us will do pretty much anything we can to not allow the “known” to be changed or reconfigured.
We know how we like things and woe to anyone or anything that threatens to upset that apple cart.
And most of us will choose to avoid dealing with, sorting through or discarding the piles and piles of things that now clutter our closets, basements, attics, garages and memories.
However, all that gets tossed when we relocate everything long-distance.
It’s not just the status quo that gets trashed when all of our belongings are bubble-wrapped and hidden in the recesses of too many unlabeled cardboard boxes. It’s the sense of routine, the order and rhythms we’ve spent years creating and honing, that dissolve and disappear along with the worn-out clothes and furniture.
And so we drive or fly to our new, often unseen, untested nest, dragging mismatched collections of things that no longer belong anywhere or with anything, and enter a whole new quotidian, one that feels and tastes and sounds and smells foreign and new.
It’s no wonder that upon arrival, one of the first impulses is to search for places that are familiar, national stores like Bed, Bath & Beyond or Target, places that look the same, pretty much, no matter where on the map they’re located. Places that offer us a sense of the known, of home, of a controllable outcome; a quality that’s completely missing from our new place and existence in which we now finds ourselves thrust.
When I moved to Santa Fe in 2002 and my column was picked up in first run by The Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper, they asked me to write an introductory article about my experience relocating to a brand new place for my first-time readers. The piece ended up asking the question, “Is Home a Place on The Map or a State of Mind?”
And for me, by that time in my life, I found moving was a little bit of both. The tangibles we find or search for upon arrival, the crazy mixture of unknown and familiar that we try to stitch together to create a refreshed life that makes sense, and the dreams, hopes and anxieties we carry with us wherever we go. In the end, where we end up living is just mortar and brick. Our hearts travel with us wherever we rest our heads.
And so, in the face of all the “where am I going to find this” moments, the strangeness, and the displacement when your underwear turns up in a box along with the tool chest and picture hooks, there will always be a few things we can count on to help make us believe, if only for an hour, that we know where we are and what we’re doing.
And when we’ve moved, that counts for a lot.
You can submit your questions or book private phone sessions with Olive at theinnerbottomline.com, call into her blogtalkradio.com show, “The Inner Bottom Line,” at 661-449-1425 with your questions, or explore her new blog at whatskeepingyouawakeatnight.com. All letters and calls can be anonymous and confidential.
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